Thais 'forced' to work amid Gaza blitz

At least 300 Thai workers in Israel are to be relocated away from Gaza as officials prepare to investigate claims staff are being forced to carry on working in dangerous areas despite warnings of attacks.

Labour permanent secretary Jirasak Sukontachart said 300 of 4,000 Thai workers who work near Gaza want to move to a "safe zone".

Their request follows the death of 36-year-old agricultural worker Narakorn Kittiyangkul from Nan province, who was killed in a rocket attack on Wednesday. He died at his workplace in Ashkelon, 75km south of the Israeli capital Tel Aviv.

There is some confusion about the situation leading up to Narakorn's death.

Sumet Mahosot, chief of the Labour Ministry's Department of Employment, said he was initially told that Narakorn had been warned of a possible rocket attack and was advised to take shelter.

Four or five Thai workers, including Narakorn, allegedly ignored the warning and remained outside.

But Mr Jirasak said information he has received indicates that employers are forcing workers to continue working despite attack warnings. He said the Thai embassy in Israel will be asked to verify this.

"Thai workers in Israel must be aware for their own safety and move to safe places when attack warnings are announced," Mr Jirasak said.

A conversation on social media between Thai workers in Israel appears to verify that Narakorn was working when he was killed. Narakorn worked in an agricultural area without an air-raid shelter and was said to be in his work uniform at the time of the attack.

A number of the Thai workers said employers are not allowing staff to stop working and take shelter, even though fighting in the area continues to escalate.

The group expressed concern, claiming employers are ignoring the Thai Labour Ministry's requests about moving them to safer areas and protecting them from potential attacks.

The National Council for Peace and Order has demanded the Foreign Ministry move all Thai workers 10-20km away from conflict zones near the Gaza Strip.

Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow said the Thai embassy in Tel Aviv is working on bringing Narakorn's body home.

Mr Sihasak added that Thai officials in Israel have contacted employers about the relocation of workers. They have also assured employees that they will receive wages and benefits, even if they have to stop working temporarily due to the clashes.

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